This year like many years in the past, I made the trip down to War Memorial to see the Salt Bowl between the Benton Panthers and the Bryant Hornets. Again this year over 20,000 people gathered to see this high school football game. Many doubted the crowd would be that big this year since the game was moved to the fourth week of the football season, but the naysayers were wrong. The Saline County shootoutÂ drew another huge crowd. That is what I call having a passion for football.
Football isÂ a great game to learn life lessons from and many in Saline County have benefitted from the coaching they have received fromÂ many fineÂ football coaches on the high school level that truly care about the lives of their young men. Maybe that is part of the reason we are so passionate about this game of football.
I heardÂ Bryantâ€™s Shane Broadway tell Bentonâ€™s Grant Merrill on the radio on Jan. 7 he attended the recent Benton vs. Bryant basketball game,Â but he just was not ready for basketball yet since he was still so into football mode. Many people across the country feel the same way.
I grew up in Memphis with a good friend of mine who was passionate about football. Actually he was a Notre Dame Fighting Irish fan. Once he got a driver license he took off at least once a year and drove to South Bend and attempted to buy a ticket outside the stadium for a football game to see his beloved team play. He has been able to see Notre Dame play in person every year since 1978. Now that is what I call having a passion for football.
Let me now tell you about my other longtime Notre Dame Fighting Irish friends. Tim, Pat and Jim Monahan are brothers, and have been running Monahan Inc. ofÂ Arcola, Ill.,Â for many years. They sell handles and broomcorn, and sinceÂ atÂ Little RockÂ Broom Works we need those items to make brooms, we have been a customer of theirs for many years.
Two of Timâ€™s sons have actually played football for Notre Dame. Both fit the â€śRudyâ€ť description. Out of high school they received many offers to play at the small college level, but they chose to walk on at Notre Dame. Tom Monahan got some playing time his senior year as a blocking back in 1986, and Mark Monahan did the same as aÂ defensive backÂ in 1995. Former Arkansas Coach Lou Holtz coached both players.
Why did they walk on atÂ Notre Dame? Probably it had something to do with how far back the Monahan family goes with the Fighting Irish. These boysâ€™ grandfather Tom Monahan played forÂ Knute RockneÂ from 1928 to 1931.
The Monahanâ€™s still have in their possession a letter dated Aug. 2, 1929, from Rockne encouraging Monahan to put on 10 to 15 pounds. He went on to write, â€śI think you have the potentialities to make a good center with a little more experience, and you will get that this fall.â€ť Unfortunately,Â Â Rockneâ€™s life was cut short at age 43 in aÂ plane crashÂ in 1931.
Lou Holtz gave Arkansas some great years as the RazorbackÂ football coach from 1977 to 1983. Actually I got to see Holtz coach several times at the tailÂ end of that span and I have had season tickets to the football games since 1984. In fact, the 2011 season when the Hogs finished ranked No. 5 was the first time since 1977 that the Razorbacks finished in the top 5. The final poll at the end of the 1977 seasonÂ had the Irish No. 1 and the Hogs No. 3. It took us 34 years to get back to that level.
Arkansas has had someoneÂ involved in the national races though. Gus Malzahn, who played football at Henderson State with Bryantâ€™s head coach Paul Calley, was the offensive coordinator at Auburn during their national championship run in 2010.
During this yearâ€™s National Championship game as a RazorbackÂ fan it was hard to pull for a SEC West competitor like Alabama, but I do have a connection through my family this year to Alabama. My fatherâ€™s good friend Harry Smith has two grandsons playing for Alabama. Barrett Jones (No. 75) is the reigning OutlandÂ Trophy winner and his brother Harrison (No. 82) is a sophomore. Their younger brother Walker is a senior at Evangelical Christian School (ECS) where I graduated from high school, and he is also committed to play for the Tide next year.
So far the Jones brothers have five national championship rings between them. Furthermore, Harrison still has two years to play and Walker is just showing up on campus in August of 2013.
My son Wilson and I got to visit with Rex Jones at the halftime of the Arkansas-Alabama game in Fayetteville in September of 2012. Both of his sons were playing a great game that day as the Hogs got slammed 52-0. I am hopeful the Hogs are more competitive in 2013.
It is truly a small world after all. Several years ago my son Wilson met the Luciens at Fellowship Bible Church where we are members. They are a family that liveÂ and serve as missionaries in Haiti,Â but they do get to spend a couple of months each year back here in Arkansas. Recently Wilson and several of his friends went to a movie together and Lydia Lucien told Wilson that Barrett Jones has come the last two years to their village in Haiti to help with their mission projects.
Barrett Jones reminds me of Tim Tebow. Jones noted, â€śI donâ€™t want to be known as a football player who happens to be a Christian, I want to be known as a Christian who happens to play football.â€ť
The Baptist Press reported in April of 2012:
Jones organized and led a team of 31 of his friends and family members on a mission trip to Jinotega, Nicaragua, during his spring break, March 11-16.
The team participated in several nightly revival services at Shalom Baptist Church in Jinotega and visited three public schools and an orphanage. At each location, they gave their personal testimonies, presented the Gospel story and interacted with the children by playing sports and games and simply reflecting Godâ€™s love.
The 21-year-old Jones made his priorities in his testimony at the revival service at Shalom Baptist on March 13.
â€śTonight, I want to talk to you a little bit about what Iâ€™m really passionate about,â€ť he told the crowd, â€śand thatâ€™s not football â€“ itâ€™s Jesus Christ.â€ť
We know that football is a great game, but making differences in peopleâ€™sÂ lives is even better. I will be pulling for Barrett in the big game of life, but as aÂ Hog fanÂ I hope myÂ RazorbacksÂ give his brothers a tougher battle than we have recently.Â
EveretteÂ Hatcher is a regular contributor to The Saline Courier. He is the fourth generation in his family to work in the broom manufacturing business. Everette and his wife Jill have four children and live in Shannon Hills.